3.24.2017

everything and nothing

The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything.

—Walt Whitman, "Shut Not Your Doors," Leaves of Grass (1865)

3.21.2017

backdoor left unlocked

Often the best poems one writes, are those poems one backs into.

3.20.2017

rejection note

It’s nice to see the evolution of your poetry, proving so well that you don’t believe in intelligent design.

3.18.2017

thin as it may seem

Language is the organizing scrim that makes the world intelligible.

3.16.2017

poem at large

Leaving a page of poetry at the bus stop or on a park bench is not litter.

3.15.2017

deep dark line

Her lines mattered like those of an etcher.

3.14.2017

no mouth

Readers:
Roses have no mouth,
So they address your nose with their scent.
The moon has no mouth,
So it speaks to your eyes with its light.
Then with what should a poet speak?

—Oguma Hideo, from “Talk Up a Storm,” Long, Long Autumn Nights: Selected Poems of Oguma Hideo, 1901-1940 (Center for Japanese Studies, The U. of Michigan, 1989)

3.13.2017

unread and not ready

Too much speaking about poetry without due study.

3.12.2017

solid, liquid or gas

As a solid the poem is a form, it can be held and viewed easily from all sides. In a liquid state the poem moves, flows, divides and recombines, never easy to contain. As a gas the poem is not easy to see, it rises and dissipates quickly, leaving no trace. The ideal state of a poem is liquid.

3.10.2017

one-way street

Some failed philosophers become poets, but failed poets seldom become philosophers.

3.09.2017

reading report

I heard the poet A.E. Stallings read today. It was the 54th Wallace Stevens Poetry Program reading. Her work was weaker than all the past readers I’ve heard (going back over a decade). She has a strong background in the Classics (Greek & Latin) but it seems wasted when it comes to her poetry. Stallings read a ‘limerick sequence’ (if you could believe someone would think writing one was a good idea) based on various mythic figures and tales…wow, that was a painful experience to hear. I did like one poem based on the Minotaur myth, wherein the Minotaur isn't slayed by Theseus, but dies trapped below earth after an earthquake has collapsed the structures above his labyrinth.

Stallings is also a translator from the Greek and Latin. I liked something she said about that. Paraphrasing her here: ‘I prefer to translate dead poets. They don’t have any opinions about or objections to your translation.’

3.08.2017

waiting for light

Paintings stacked in a basement; poems in an unopened book.

3.07.2017

word stock

One of the many beneficent aspects of poetry: Learning new words.

3.06.2017

hung in space and silence

     My own notion of a poetry reading is quite different. I want the poet to talk about his poems as little as possible, and not so much about the poems as about something one step removed. The voice in which he does his talking unfortunately is the same voice the poor poems must borrow. The more we hear him the less we may be able to hear them.
     I should like poems hung, one at a time, like Japanese pictures, on the exquisite air, each poem surrounded by space and silence.

—Robert Francis, The Satirical Rogue on Poetry (U. of Massachusetts Press, 1968).

3.05.2017

scenes from my life

Was that a book of poems or a verbal scrapbook of family vignettes?

3.04.2017

known by heart

Without glancing at the contents page or index he cracked open the book at the very poem he wanted to read again.